The Festival I Wish We Had

I don’t know when the Greene Countrie Towne Festival first began but the 2019 edition will visit us on July 19th through the 21st. What will arrive with it will include hot, humid, and possibly rainy weather, a block or more of out of town food vendors, flea market crap sellers, a few organizations promoting themselves, and a few local organizations trying to earn some funds by selling food and beverage. There will be some local bands playing mostly country music and any number of lip-syncing type events that nobody attends except parents and grandmas.

Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m badmouthing all the hard work and effort that lots of people put into this annual affair. Well, In some ways I am but mostly I’m not. Whatever our festival is, lots of people love it and find plenty of reason to brave the heat and potential hail storms and leave their air-conditioned homes to come and take part.

Our festival is just what is expected of a small-town festival and in the famous words of Red Paden, “It is what it is.” I just wish it had a theme that better celebrated the culture of Southern Ohio, whatever that is. Most years I attend the GCTF, even if it’s just to get a grilled pork loin sandwich from the antique tractor guys. But every year I also can’t help but compare it to the best festival I ever attended, The annual Breaux Bridge Crawfest Festival. I’ve written about it a few times and the following is excerpted from a piece I wrote several years ago.

A decade ago I drove to Beaux Bridge, Louisiana to attend the world’s largest and oldest crawfish festival. It was absolutely the best festival I’ve ever attended and here’s why. It had a definite theme, the celebration and honoring of the area’s Cajun culture and other things Gulf Coast. It was held in a fenced-in area and the crowd paid a minimal entre fee making crowd control and security excellent. And since this was a Cajun celebration, everything from the food to the flea market was Cajun themed. There wasn’t any scraggly dude selling Sturgis, SD t-shirts or Italian pizza or Polish sausage sandwiches. If it wasn’t Cajun related it wasn’t going to be sold there.

The food vendors were all local organizations. Years ago difference clubs, etc., had signed up for certain foods and they owned the market on that item. The Elks had the Crawfish Etouffee booth, the Kiwanis Club the crawfish & potato boil, the Rotary Club was deep-frying alligator tail, the Junior League was making shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, and the Girl Scouts were peddling bread pudding & hard sauce.

No Cajun gathering is complete without a little adult libation so New Orleans’ Pat O’Brien had a mobile bar on site mixing up their famous creation, the Hurricane, as well as other traditional NOLA mixed drinks. A beer wagon was present but not vending Bud Light. Louisiana has its own breweries and the wagon was selling a variety of draft beers from the local Abita Brewery.

There were three music stages and for most of the day and evening what you heard coming from them was traditional Louisiana folk music performed in the French dialect of the Cajuns, Zydeco, Blues, NOLA style jazz, and maybe a little Southern rock.

Okay, I admit that few places in America have such a defined and strong culture as Louisiana and it’s Cajun heritage. But it wouldn’t hurt if the planners of Greenfield’s festival worked with the Historical Society and others to further identify and focus on the village’s ethnic history. For example, Greenfield has both a strong Irish and German influence in our history. Why not define what that is and construct the festival using those themes?

Another potential theme could be the musical influences that have come out of our Appalachian past. Why not make it a music festival celebrating American roots music and the ways it has influenced us and that we have influenced it. Which name do you think is most appealing to the festival lover crowd, Greene Countrie Towne Festival or Greenfield Roots Music Festival? Of the eight words in those two titles, the one that is by far the most powerful is, music! I’ve heard some locals express the thought that it should be a music festival and based our “most famous” native, Johnny Paycheck. Yeah, he did shoot a man in Hillsboro but he is the only person from our town whose name is recognized and loved the world over.

Seriously, I wrote this as a positive criticism of our festival and only want what is best for those involved and the community at large. If you don’t agree, that’s okay. Just don’t tell me to take this laptop and shove it!

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